Thursday, June 26, 2008

100th Execution in Virginia

Here are a couple of video snippets of activities outside the prison in Virgina as that state conducted its 100th execution in the current death penalty era. Here is one news item...

100th Execution in Virginia - Tolling the bell 100 times...

Pilgrimage for Life from NC to DC

Making Strides toward Abolition and Reconciliation....

Here's a short clip from last Sunday, about 15 miles north of Jarratt, VA, site of Virginia's death house.... These folks are walking from North Carolina to the U.S. Supreme Court in DC, educating and activating on the issue of the death penalty.... See their BLOG here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Rev. Pickett on the Hill

"At the Death House Door" was screened for Congressional staff and interns on Thursday, June 19, 2008 in a special presentation hosted by Congressman Bobby Scott and co-sponsored by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Amnesty International and the United Methodist Church Genral Board of Church and Society. The screening was followed by a lively Q&A session with Rev. Pickett, his wife and film maker Steve James.

Congressman Bobby Scott

NCADP Executive Director Diann Rust-Tierney

Rev. Carroll Pickett

Meeting with the Special Rapporteur

This morning (June 19, 2008)
Amnesty International hosted a meeting with Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. Providing perspective for him were Sue Vaughn of Amnesty International USA, Dick Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, Deborah Fleischaker of the ABA's Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, Renny Cushing of Murder Victim Families for Human Rights and Diann Rust-Tierney of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Professor Alston started by explaining his position and noted that he had met with much officials of the U.S. Justice Department yesterday, who expressed that they did not feel he has much to be concerned about. He also noted that a week from Monday (June 30) he'll hold a press conference to give his preliminary report, noting that the UN process then allows governments reported upon six weeks to comment, plus editing and translation prior to the issuing of a final report. Here is a bit more about his mission, followed by some photos from the meeting.

"The Special Rapporteur places a very high priority on receiving the views of civil society on the issues within his mandate. These are often invaluable in ensuring that his final reports and balanced and well-considered. The key aspect is that his mandate is actually not an abolitionist one. The matters that do come within the mandate are:

- Whether the due process requirements set out in international human rights law are observed in any trial (or subsequent pardons process) which may lead to the application of the death penalty;

- Whether, in retentionist states, the death penalty is only available for the "most serious crimes" (the legal position of the Special Rapporteur is that capital punishment is only permitted in international law for intentional murder. (His views are set out here)

- In the USA, he will also look at the allegations of racial bias in the application of the death penalty.

Although the mandate is not abolitionist, in some contexts (eg., Afghanistan) we have recommended a moratorium on the death penalty because it was clear that due process was just not observed at all (and could not be, in the circumstances currently prevailing). "

Diann Rust-Tierney

Richard Dieter

Renny Cushing

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sleeping with the Judge

(NOTE: An hour before the execution was to take place, the death warrant was rescinded and Hood was returned to death row)

Texas is at it again. The eight month moratorium on executions has come and gone and Texas is moving forward with executions even in the face of utter and complete injustice.

Do you remember the case of Calvin Burdine or George McFarland. Their lawyers fell asleep during their capital trial and they still got sentenced to death.

Well here’s another crazy Texas death penalty case.

Charles Dean Hood is scheduled to be executed today, June 17th in Texas. His lawyer fortunately was not caught sleeping, but the District Attorney in his case, Tom O’Connell, was caught sleeping, that is sleeping with the judge in Hood’s trial.

Judge Verla Sue Holland and District Attorney Tom O’Connell had a long-time intimate relationship including during the time of Hood’s trial, something that was all but public knowledge in the legal community. Hood’s attorneys have been trying to fully out this relationship and all the seedy injustice around it for years. Hopefully it’s not too late for Charles Dean Hood.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

March from NC to DC starts Sunday...

Click here to learn more about, support, and/or participate in the Pilgrimage and Walk of Remembrance 2008.

"The Pilgrimage and Walk of Remembrance 2008 is a 300-mile walk from Raleigh NC to Washington, DC. We embark on a spiritual pilgrimage and walk of remembrance – remembering murder victims and their families, people on death row and their families, persons executed and their families and calling for abolition of the death penalty...."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

15th Annual Fast and Vigil Approaching

Every year, for the past fifteen years, from June 29 – July 2nd, something amazing happens in Washington, DC. Abolitionists from around the country and world come together for a four day Fast and Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty.

They set-up shop on the sidewalk of the U.S. Supreme Court and put their ideals into action. And they lose some weight.

You might wonder why hold such an event during such a hot time of the year. And if you know DC in the summer, you know that it can be brutal. Do note that the fast is optional for participants and those who fast drink plenty of liquids.

Yup, summers in DC are high tourist season and the U.S. Supreme Court is a heavily trafficked spot for tourists and DC residents. So, it’s a fantastic opportunity to engage thousands of people on the death penalty. And since many of those who participate in The Fast and Vigil year after year have such powerful stories to tell – they are death row exonorees, family members of murder victims, family members of death row inmates and other long-time abolitionists - if a passerby takes the time to stop and have a conversation with someone, that will likely be one profound conversation and experience.

But why not hold court at the court in April or May, at the beginning of DC’s tourist season and when the weather is much more moderate?

The answer is that June 29th and July 2nd are the anniversaries of two historic death penalty cases heard and decided by the very Court where this protest now takes place – the U.S. Supreme Court.

On June 29, 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia that the death penalty is arbitrary and capricious. More than 600 condemned inmates had their death sentences reduced to life. On July 2, 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia the U.S. Supreme Court upheld new state death penalty laws allowing the resumption of executions in the United States.

For more information about the Fast and Vigil and to see a schedule for this year’s event, click here.